The Independent View: Alternatives to Trident replacement must include the possibility of no nuclear weapons

Since Liam Fox made his announcement last week that while Trident replacement design is going ahead, the Lib Dems will also be looking at alternatives, there has been a flurry of derision about the latter initiative. Most obviously this comes from Liam Fox and the hard–line pro-nuclear lobby who just want to rubbish it. But criticism of Lib Dem efforts also comes from some anti-nuclear quarters and I am not convinced that this is totally reasonable.

From my point of view, it would be very easy to have a pop at the Lib Dem leadership for not backing CND’s maximum programme – to scrap Trident and cancel its replacement. And of course we will continue to work with those Lib Dem members who share our views on nuclear disarmament and who make strenuous efforts to bring about a change in their party policy.

I would merely make the point that although current Lib Dem policy – no like-for-like replacement and looking at alternatives – falls considerably short of what CND would like to see, it is actually streets ahead of its Conservative and Labour rivals. In fact, it is not just streets ahead – it is in a totally different ball park.

The Lib Dems are a soft target for attack on this and many other issues. But in reality it is the two main parties that have repeatedly set their faces against complying with international treaty requirements, against listening to the majority of the population and against saving well over £100 billion that could be better spent on virtually anything else other than weapons of mass destruction. The Lib Dems are not the main enemy on this issue. That dishonour goes to the Conservative and Labour leaderships, who despite their repeated claims to act in the best interests of Britain and its security in the twenty-first century world with its plethora of new threats, obsess about an absurd white elephant of a cold war weapons system. At least the Lib Dem leadership is in the process of rethinking.

I would urge all anti-nuclear campaigners to engage with the review process in whatever ways are available to us. This may mean writing unsolicited submissions, lobbying ministers or raising the issue in the press, in our trade unions or elsewhere. All this should be done, and more. But I would urge everyone who believes nuclear weapons to be an important issue to take this review seriously. And above all raise the fundamental issue: alternatives to Trident replacement must include the possibility of no nuclear weapons.

Kate Hudson is the General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

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This entry was posted in The Independent View.


  • It’s all very well opposing nuclear weapons, but unilateral disarmament hands a huge amount of power to your enemies.

    What happens when you lose the deterrent and a rogue state, say Pakistan, points a missile and makes demands?

  • Ah yes, Kate Hudson. A well known member of the communist party of Great Britain advocating unilateral disarmament for the UK. Couldn’t make it up!

    A more fifth column article you could not get. Liberals should run as far away from Communists masquerading as CND activists as possible.

  • The only alternative to spending billions on maintaining the status quo, is spending billions on trying to build an effective missile defense system, something totally ineffective at preventing bombs from being smuggled into the country.

  • Geoffrey Payne Posted 28th May 2011 at 1:23 pm

    “and since lacking nuclear weapons has done Germany no harms”

    Except of course that Germany was part of NATO and was therefore protected by NATO weapons (which included the UK weapons), also, it did have such weapons based in the Country to provide the NATO deterrence.

    So whilst your statement may be factual it doesn’t really give the whole picture as Germany benefitted from the deterrence.

  • @Geoffrey Payne
    As was pointed out, Germany is part of NATO and, as such, is protected by the US nuclear umbrella. There were historic reasons why that country didn’t pursue its own nuclear weapons program. However, at the height of the Cold War it allowed the siting of all manner of nuclear weapons including short range missiles which, if used, could have fallen on its own territory. Germany was and is committed to a nuclear component of its defence.

    I would be happy for the UK to get rid of its nuclear weapons if someone can tell me how the world will look in 20 years. Will NATO and de facto protection from the US still exist ? Will Russia have succumbed to a military coup and be in an expansionist mood ? What about China ?

  • Some more things to think about in terms of what the world might look like in 20 years time. We are seeing a shift to the right in UK politics – it’s entirely possible that this trend will accelerate as things become tougher economically over the years ahead. What if, in 20 years time, the UK is controlled by a hard-line right wing government with a strong UKIP and BNP presence? Do you think that giving Nick Griffin control of nuclear weapons would make the world a safer place than giving Kim Yong-Il control of nuclear weapons?

    Unfortunately the political right cannot see beyond the midset that ‘the UK are the good guys and could never do anything wrong – we must always be on the alert for these evil foreigners’. This view of the world has no reality beyond the movies. If you base your political outlook on this approach you are detined to live in fear and paranoia for ever.

  • I, too, am grateful to Kate Hudson for writing this and agree with Geoffrey Payne, Gareth Epps and JohnM.

    The comment

    “And above all raise the fundamental issue: alternatives to Trident replacement must include the possibility of no nuclear weapons.”

    is a good one – we OUGHT to consider the possibility of no nuclear weapons which would be an ideal scenario. Unfortunately the reality will not be that situation much as many of us would like it to be.

    I totally disagree with “g” who prefers to remain totally anonymous.

    Pakistan would be unwise to point its weapons at us – we are funding THEIR schools to the tune of £600 billion! It’s not in their interest to point anything at us – we will just withdraw our funding which, in my view, should never have been given – it should have been spent on OUR schools instead of money being put into Trident and delivery systems!

    @Andy – Kate Hudson’s political affiliations are not the issue here – she is a member of CND as many of us are. She is speaking as a member of CND not of the Communist Party, so I suggest you drop that one!

    You are right, JohnM – we don’t have the money for Trident and all that it entails – the current cost over this Parliament’s term is upwards of £110 billion – this should be being spent on Education, Health and Social Care and the NHS “free at the point of need” and keeping University education free not being spent on Weapons of War!

  • @Jenny
    Given the centuries of democratic tradition, a track record of fighting extremists (communists in the Cold War and fascists and Nazis in the Second World War) and the first past the post system loonies such as the BNP have been kept out of power.

    Certainly, anything can happen…. but Nick Griffen as PM ??? I think any of the other scenarios (resurgent and hostile Russia, expansionist China etc.) are more credible.

    So you want us to give up nuclear weapons in case *we* become fascist. I would love to see you sell that as a Lib Dem policy…. Please, go on – try it on the hustings. It would be great….

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